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Pegi writes: "I recently switched from http to https because it seemed to my IT guy that the reason we could not collect data on Google Analytics from a site that was https, was because we lacked the magic he got the certification  done... I see that ALL the previous links people had to my  site, are now going to be lost because of the switch...

Can I have both address....and drive the old http to my new https ?

And, are you a Google Analytics expert?

Thank you."

Well, Pegi, first let's talk about your big (unspoken) question - do you need https in order to collect Google Analytics data?

No, you do not. In fact, I'm using Google Analytics on this site, and you'll notice that there's no https in the address for the page you're looking at. So your IT guy may have set up a security certificate for nothing.

Let's talk for a moment about why you might want to have an SSL certificate, even though it probably won't make any difference to Google Analytics.

If you sell anything on your site, you'll want a certificate, because payment processing must occur on an encrypted page. If you're selling something, but using an outside service (like PayPal) to process payments, the security certificate might not be necessary, but people will feel safer if it's there. I know that when I start creating a shopping cart on a site, one of the first things I do is look for that "magic S." If it's not there, I never get far enough in the process to find out whether they're processing my payment information elsewhere.

Now let's talk about why you might not want SSL on your site. The big reason is that every page viewed over SSL is encrypted, and the encryption requires more information transferred over the internet connection. Why does this matter? Well, this will matter for two reasons:

  1. If you are limited on bandwidth (which is probably not likely - most hosting companies are offering enough bandwidth that easily cover the needs of most small businesses) then you're using more bandwidth every time someone views a page.
  2. Because the pages are encrypted, they are taking more time to load. You might have noticed that your page loads a little slower now that it's on a secure socket. On the other hand, you might not have noticed; the big difference will be noticed primarily by those who are not on high speed internet. And they are a vanishing breed.

In addition, of course, you have to pay for it every year. In the grand scheme of things it's not a big expense, but it is an expense.

So what are your options now?

  • Keep SSL, and keep it on the whole site. Your concern that http links will be lost is really not something to be concerned about for you, because if someone clicks a link to an http page, your server automatically redirects them to the https version of the same page. (I know this, because I visited your site, and did so without the https.)
  • Keep SSL, but use it only on parts of your site. As I mentioned before, the page you reading right now isn't on a secure connection, but we do have a security certificate on this site - go to the site's Shopping Page, and you'll see the "magic S". If you try to visit the shopping page with http, you get redirected to the https version. Similiarly, if you try to visit any other page of the site with https, you get redirected to the page without it.
  • Get rid of the SSL. This may be problematic, if you've had the certificate for awhile, because if you have a security certificate, both http and https links will work. But if you get rid of https, then https links will no longer work, and anyone who has an https page bookmarked, or finds your site through Google (google has indexed your pages as https) will get a browser warning instead of your site. If you feel like you really need to get rid of the SSL at this point, that's probably a whole other blog post to explore the best way to handle that without losing much traffic.

Your final question - am I a Google Analytics expert? No, I'm really not. I use it on all my sites, though, so if you had additional questions, I might be able to help out.

I hope this was helpful!

Professor Puzzler


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